Jon Beeler, left, and Byron Flores Jr. rehearse a scene from “Remains,” directed by Bob Lowy and written by Eric Alter. (COURTESY ERIC ALTER)

By ERIN ROLL
For Montclair Local

It has been 20 years since the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people and inflicted lasting trauma on the country. 

In Montclair, a theater company is helping to continue the healing process, through drama and spoken word.

Apricot Sky Productions will present a series of one-act plays and monologues this week at the Grove Street Theatre, with two performances on Sept. 10 and 11. 




Eric Alter, Apricot Sky’s founder and executive producer, who is one of the featured playwrights, said that the plays also mark a return to live theater. After a year and a half of little to no live theater of any kind in Montclair or elsewhere in the region, he said, he was hopeful that many people would want to come to the show. “I think people were so cooped up and ready to get out and do something,” he said. 

Two of the plays, “Catch the Morning” and “The Grieving Pool,” were previously featured in “Capsule,” a showcase of one-act plays that Apricot Sky presented for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in 2011. 

“Catch the Morning,” written by Alter, follows a conversation between a father and daughter as they come to grips with the attacks. “The Grieving Pool,” also by Alter, is the story of two strangers who meet at the 9/11 Memorial reflecting pool in New York, and end up sharing stories about loved ones lost in the attacks. 

“I hate to sound dark … but there’s not a tone of comedy in these plays,” Alter said. The content is very emotional, and very palpable, he said. 

Art Delo and Celeste Fasone rehearse a scene from “The Grieving Pool,” directed by Helen Exel and written by Eric Alter. (COURTESY ERIC ALTER)

Auditions for the plays took place in early summer, and Alter said 43 people responded to the audition call. The company held its tech week rehearsals in late August.

The 9/11 anniversary comes as Montclair and the rest of the country are still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing restrictions and safety precautions, including the shutdown of live theater and other performing arts in March 2020. Apricot Sky couldn’t go ahead with its annual show in 2020. “It just wasn’t in the cards,” Alter said.  

The September 11 attacks claimed the lives of 2,977 people, including 750 New Jersey residents, 58 of whom were from Essex County, nine from Montclair or Montclair natives. The vast majority of New Jersey victims were employees at the World Trade Center.

Since the attacks, Montclair has held a ceremony of remembrance each year at the township’s 9/11 memorial in Watchung Plaza. 

“I think it’s important to keep that memory alive, and make sure that people don’t forget, and honor them in a way,” Alter said. 

The Apricot Sky production is directed by Helen Exel, John Fraissinet, Bob Lowy, Elaine Molinaro and Alexander Oleksij. The playwrights, in addition to Alter, are Lisa Annitti, Fraissinet and Molinaro. 

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The acting company is composed of Jon Beeler, Laura Byrne, Jenna Cia, Ginny S. Crooks, Art Delo, Celeste Fasone, Byron Flores Jr., Jeff Foote, Donna Fraissinet, Ann Grippo, Brooke Kay, Kay Koch, Gary Koseyan, Donald Pauselius, Liz Samuel, Gina Sarno, Alexa Servodidio, Larry Shagawa, and Angela Levins-Smith. 

The shows will take place at the Grove Street Theatre, 130 Grove St., on Sept. 10 and 11 at 8 p.m. on both dates. Tickets are free, but a $15 donation is suggested. All profits from the show will be donated to the National September 11th Memorial & Museum. 

Masks will be required for all audience members. For more information: apricotskyproductions.com

A memorial stone to Montclair’s nine Sept. 11 victims is located in Watchung Plaza, near the Watchung Avenue train station. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks. (ERIN ROLL/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)